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February 18, 2021 at 6:45 p.m.

Responding to Community Concerns

Dear Members of the CSSW Community,

The intensity of the conversation on social media regarding Professor Ericka Hart’s expressed concerns about their treatment by CSSW speaks not only to Professor Hart’s laudable role as a public figure and Black queer femme activist, but also to the urgency of larger issues of race, gender, and sexuality confronting higher education and our School.

It is understandable that claims made about the facts of this matter, circulated via email and social media, have raised questions and concerns. While we respectfully disagree with many of Professor Hart’s assertions, it is rarely, if ever, appropriate for a Dean to discuss allegations involving the interactions of a faculty member and a student, and I will not do so here. What I can say – and what I feel is of the utmost importance for CSSW at this moment – is that we can waste no time in becoming a School where the alleged conduct described by Professor Hart would not occur and, more to the point, would never be expected to occur. I am fully committed to achieving that goal, even as we deal with a matter underscoring that many in our community see us in a different and more negative light – a perception many years in the making.

Clearly, we need to build a new future for CSSW. Given our mission and the students who comprise our community, it is not acceptable for only 18% of our full-time faculty and 36% of our adjunct faculty to be from groups under-represented in academia (the 36% is comprised of 23% of faculty who identify as Black and 13% identifying as Latinx). Those percentages must and will increase. Other institutional issues, such as our general practice of sharing prior syllabi with new instructors, must also be reviewed and addressed.

The passions raised by Professor Hart’s public critiques and the larger issues raised by the conversation that has ensued are not easy to confront, but they are essential. Our community will be actively discussing them in a structured and serious way during the remainder of this semester and well into the future.

In community,

Melissa